Greatness of Spirit

To greatness of spirit it belongs to bear finely both good fortune and bad, honor and disgrace, and not to think highly of luxury or attention or power or victories in contests, and to possess a certain depth and magnitude of spirit. He who values life highly and who is fond of life is not great-spirited. The great-spirited man is simple and noble in character, able to bear injustice and not revengeful. Greatness of spirit is accompanied by simplicity and sincerity.

    Aristotle, from Vol. 20, Aristotle in 23 Volumes, translated by H. Rackham. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. © 1952

Uncover Your Secret

What a wonderful gift we have been given in being alive and what secrets we can uncover about ourselves. Every new experience is a new opportunity to learn something about ourselves and our world. One of the most wonderful secrets each of us has to uncover is our greatness. You have a greatness within you, a light shining that wants to be as bright as the sun.

It is human nature to live life denying the full degree of our greatness. We act out learned, often limited self-defeating patterns of emotion, behavior, and thought, not stopping to reflect that we can choose to feel, act, and think differently. Without significant motive it is human nature to not stop to evaluate, probe, or reconsider ourselves. Often we simply accept our experience without question.

I have observed both in myself and in others that the springboard to personal growth and recognizing our greatness is often discomfort, sometimes significant discomfort. When faced with a problem that causes discomfort, pain, or suffering we immediately seek to find a way out. This is the moment when we make an important decision that will determine if we are to benefit from our discomfort or create the potential for more discomfort. We choose whether to face the problem causing the discomfort or turn from it. If we face it we will experience what I call "healthy suffering." That is the suffering that comes from resolving a difficulty by facing it directly. "Unhealthy suffering" is the discomfort we experience when we seek to run from a problem, turning to false solutions that offer temporary comfort but are always followed by more discomfort. This, by the way, is the earmark of addiction.

Do you recall when you were a child thinking that so many things in life were not fair? It is true that life is not fair. Do you remember fighting the unfairness with all your might saying, "That's not fair!" When you realized that your protestations didn't help what did you do? Did you seek to find another solution? Did you get angry? Did you turn off? Did you continue to fight the unfairness with bitterness and complaints? Did you seek to change yourself? What did you do? The difference between childlike thinking and adultlike thinking is that the child does not accept that life is not fair and the adult does. Acceptance that life is not fair opens the door to resolving the mysteries of life. If we do not accept the reality of life's unfairness, we continue to react to its unfairness like a rebellious child. Consequently we block our own growth.

Typically when the discomfort of a problem subsides we tend to return to our old familiar patterns. Most of us learn from experience rather than from wisdom and as a result experience unnecessary suffering. By altering a few thoughts you may have about life, you can avoid much suffering.

Make a commitment to a lifetime of growing. Realize that you do have a choice about your approach to all life situations. Choose to face your problems no matter how uncomfortable. Remember that any other "escape" route will only bring you added discomfort. Ask yourself to find the hidden teacher in all you experience. Know that your life holds lessons fashioned just for you. Much like a drawing that has within it hidden pictures, so life has hidden within each experience a mystery to be discovered about yourself. Seek the truth in the mystery. Stretch yourself within. Use your warrior spirit and advance toward life instead of retreating into the temporary and delusive safety of no-risk living. Confront your problems with a desire to learn. Humble yourself. Be willing to be wrong and grow rather than be right and stuck.

It is never too late to grow. I believe it is our purpose and destiny to evolve. We can learn from all experience - even from our own dying. We can learn in old age. It is never too late, even if you have lived a life you consider futile or meaningless. Each day is a new opportunity, a new chance, a new beginning. We can learn from failure. It is impossible to be successful without failure. Some people unconsciously wait for death thinking that they will be released from the responsibility of themselves. I have a feeling that even then we are not "off the hook."

Do not be frightened by the discomfort that comes with growth. Any way we live it, life has its conflicts and pain. The discomfort that results from years of self-defeating patterns is far greater than the temporary pain of self-examination and the process of healing. Regard the pain that comes from growth as welcome pain for it heralds new freedom. Like the cleansing sting of a cold rain that cleans the earth and sky, allowing for new life, so your growth cleans your spirit making you a greater channel for the expression of the greatness within you. Your growth prepares you to live that greatness. Your greatness is meant to be lived. Only you can prepare yourself for that greatness.

When a condition or situation arrives that is an opportunity for growth, move toward it with eagerness. Do not wait for too much pain or discomfort to be your motivator. Choose the pain that comes with being fully and responsibly alive rather than waiting for the pain of neglecting your responsibilities to choose you. Know that playing it safe is one of the most dangerous things you can do. You cannot live life responsibly without making mistakes, offending others, and drawing attention to yourself. You also cannot live life responsibly without constantly evaluating yourself and your motivations. Do this in the most humble and loving way possible. It is a sort of tough love for yourself. Ultimately we cannot escape ourselves. We are not small inconsequential beings. We have been given the greatest responsibility of all - to realize and live our true greatness. Denial brings you terrors untold. Accept and embrace all that life is including its unfairness and you will be set free. None of it is easy but it is terribly wonderful! Wendy Hill , This week's Guest Author

- Wendy Hill, Marriage and Family Therapist

About the Author

Wendy specializes in identifying and transforming subconscious self-defeating core beliefs that create conflict in relationships, undermine well being, and limit the ability to function as a happy, responsible adult. She is an author of several books, a workshop facilitator, and an accomplished professional speaker. She is also a trained vocalist who often will sing a song to inspire and empower participants in her workshops. You may subscribe to her free weekly message of inspiration by contacting her.

Expanding My Identity

Guard your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.

    Proverbs 4:23

The next time I find myself up against a problem, and begin to think, "I could never do that" or "That's not me," I may find that I need to expand my identity. Steven Covey writes of two types of human behavior: Personality Ethic - whose elements are seeking personal or professional growth, expanding my communication skills, educating myself in the field of influence strategies and positive thinking; and Character Ethic - that which enables me to relate to others in a nonthreatening way through honest and compassionate interaction, i.e., the virtues of integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, courage, justice, patience, industry, simplicity, modesty and living the Golden Rule. My identity, the greatness of my spirit, is composed of a balance between these two, as suggested by the philosopher Aristotle.

Field-Marshal Montgomery, commander of British forces during WWII, spoke of seven key ingredients necessary in a successful leader. He offered that a great leader must learn to sit back and avoid getting immersed in detail, to not be petty, nor pompous. He went further to suggest that a good leader must be able to pick good assistants and let them get on with their job without interference; that a good leader must be clearly decisive and one who could inspire confidence. It would seem that in these seven points, Monty has encompassed both the Personality and Character Ethics in their entirety!

Individuals who are successful in their personal or professional life, more often than not, have these qualities or Ethics. They have found that place for their identity, not just somewhere between, but across the whole of the two Ethics. The Personality Ethic, which in it's basest form can be manipulative and insincere, but when understood and practiced virtuously can lead others to greatness. The Character Ethic, which when taken to an extreme can lead to a dependence upon others for approval and a loss of self-esteem, yet when combined with the powers of logic, rhetoric, clear thinking and communication, and a compassionate manner when dealing with others can, again, inspire confidence and greatness in others and lead to personal success and self-satisfaction. Good leaders honor, understand and genuinely care about people, and handle them with care, because they honor, understand and care for themself in these same ways.

Within the appropriate bounds of these two Ethics, what am I capable of being or doing? What more can I be? What more will I be? Have I limited my concept of self in some way by not adopting the qualities of a good leader? Thinking and acting upon the principles of these two Ethics can have a profound effect upon my life and the lives of others. The only limits to my success are those I have placed there myself.

Tony Robbins calls it the "Master System." Those who have studied and followed Tony's coaching methods find themselves at a crossroads when they have apprehended the necessity for both a soundness of character and an expansion of how they deal with others on their way to fulfillment and success. They must, of necessity, forget the past and who they were, and define who they are now, as well as who they have decided to become. They must decide whether to expand their identity, and discover their inherent greatness within.

Can I expand my identity in this way? Should I? It must be a conscious decision; it can be a powerful decision, one which should be carefully made. Such a decision is the path to a greatness of spirit.



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